Thursday, October 22, 2009

The New Vision of Reality: excerpt 1

for physicists at the beginning of the century, the new quantum view of reality was by no means easy to accept - the exploration of the atomic and subatomic world brought them in contact with a strange and unexpected reality - in their struggle to grasp this new reality, scientists became painfully aware that their basic concepts, their language, and their whole way of thinking were inadequate to describe atomic phenomena - their problems were not merely intellectual but amounted to an intense emotional and, one could say, even existential crisis - it took them a long time to overcome this crisis, but in the end they were rewarded with deep insights into the nature of matter and its relation to the human mind.

the dramatic changes of thinking that happened in physics at the beginning of this century have been widely discussed by physicists and philosophers for more than fifty years - they led Thomas Kuhn to the notion of a scientific paradigm, defined as "a constellation of achievements, concepts, values, techniques, etc., shared by a scientific community and used by that community to define legitimate problems and solutions" - changes of paradigms, according to Kuhn, occur in discontinuous, revolutionary breaks called paradigm shifts.

today, twenty-five years after Kuhn's analysis, we recognize the paradigm shift in physics as an integral part of a much larger cultural transformation - the intellectual crisis of the quantum physicists in the 1920s is mirrored today by a similar but much broader cultural crisis - the major problems of our time are all different facets of that crisis, which is essentially a crisis of perception - like the crisis in quantum physics, it derives from an outdated worldview, inadequate for dealing with the problems of a globally interconnected world - at the same time, researchers in several scientific disciplines, various social movements, and numerous alternative organizations and networks are developing a new vision of reality that will form the basis of our future technologies, economic systems, and social institutions.

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